Abstract

Saprolite, weathered bedrock, is being used to dispose of domestic sewage through septic system drainfields, but its ability to remove coliforms is unknown. This study determined if Escherichia coli could be removed by a sandy loam saprolite material. Triplicate columns containing saprolite were prepared with lengths of 30, 45, and 60 cm. A 215-mL solution containing 1 × 105 CFU/100 mL of non-toxic E. coli was applied to the top of each column for 5 days/week for 13 weeks, and selected outflow samples were analyzed for E. coli. Control columns had only tap water applied to them at the same time. Significantly higher (p ≤ 0.10 compared to controls) E. coli concentrations were only detected in samples collected at the end of week 3 for the 30-cm columns and week 4 for the 45-cm columns. E. coli concentrations were small and ranged from approximately 2 to 3 MPN/100 mL. No E. coli were detected in any outflow from the 60-cm columns. From weeks 5 to 13, E. coli concentrations from all columns were either undetectable or not significantly different from the control. The results showed that 60 cm of sandy loam saprolite was sufficient for the removal of E. coli from simulated wastewater.

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